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Larne harbour ferry fire just months after lorries topple on same ship

The P&O European Causeway passenger ferry
Gareth McKeown

A FIRE broke out on a passenger ferry in Larne Harbour yesterday, just months after lorries toppled over on the same P&O ship.

Emergency services were tasked to a blaze in the engine room of the European Causeway ship at around 4.30pm on Sunday, but no injuries were reported and everyone was accounted for.

The fire was extinguished by the ship's crew and internal fire suppression system, according to the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, but three fire engines attended the scene.

The European Causeway passenger ferry operates between Larne and Cairnryan in Scotland.

In a statement issued yesterday P&O said they are currently investigating the circumstances of the fire.

"We can confirm that a fire broke out in the engine room of the European Causeway whilst the ship was on the berth in Larne this afternoon. All passengers and crew are safe, the fire was extinguished automatically within minutes and the ship is currently out of service whilst we investigate the cause," they said.

Due to "technical difficulties" P&O cancelled the 23.59 Larne to Cairnryan service last night as well as this morning's 7.30am sailing. The 8pm service last night from Cairnryan to Larne and today's 4am sailing were also cancelled, with "technical difficulties" again cited.

The fire comes less than four months after nine lorries fell on to their sides and cars were crushed when the European Causeway was sailing from Larne to Cairnryan on December 18.

An inquiry, which concluded last week found at least six drivers had remained in their cabs despite being instructed to leave the ro-ro (roll-on/roll-off) deck after parking.

No-one was hurt during the incident, but one of the drivers was trapped in his vehicle and needed to be rescued by the emergency services in Scotland.

International regulations state that passengers are not allowed to remain on ro-ro decks as they are in danger of asphyxiation by fire or as a result of systems used to tackle fires.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) , which carried out the inquiry, issued an urgent safety warning that ro-ro decks are a "hazardous and potentially life-threatening environment" and should only be occupied by professional seafarers.

Drivers who remain on the deck may delay an emergency response to a fire, which could result in "catastrophic consequences to the whole vessel, its passengers and the environment", the MAIB added.

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